Back in 2009, Apple showed off its latest run of iPhones with an ad campaign marked by a now legendary slogan: “There’s an app for that.” Apple went on to trademark the phrase in 2010, and since then, apps have become one of the most ubiquitous means of technological interaction out there. You can find millions of apps across many different marketplaces for a wide array of technologies, but interestingly enough, because of Apple’s 2009 ad campaign, apps are still by and large associated with mobile devices, specifically iPhones and Android phones. Indeed, it seems that many people just assume “mobile app” when they hear the word “app.”
While mobile apps are certainly a huge part of the app world, the term “app” itself is actually much more far-reaching and inclusive of many other technologies (Mac users: just think of the many native “Applications” on your hard drive). In addition to mobile apps, nowadays there are also desktop apps, browser apps, smartwatch apps, and many more. This understanding of an app in broader terms is crucial for businesses looking to really step up their online game.
Businesses have every reason to prioritize their online presence in today’s market. Research indicates that customer experience is the number one source of inter-business competition these days, and since more and more of your potential customers will be interacting with your business through other avenues than a traditional website on a desktop, tailoring your virtual presence to best highlight your business’s services is of paramount importance. It’s increasingly becoming the case in such a competitive market that something as simple as a website built from a template just won’t cut it. If more and more of your potential customers are finding out about you by browsing on their phone, for example, why not take your services directly to their phones?
There are skeptics who argue that the app-crazy culture of Silicon Valley isn’t actually driving much innovation or that app development is too expensive and doesn’t offer much that a responsive website can’t do already. These reservations are certainly valid, as apps can cost a lot of money to make and the marketplace for apps is already quite crowded, but in an industry where customer experience is valued above all, the possibilities of customizing your own app mean you can offer potential customers an authentic experience of your company’s online presence at its best. The best UX designers will have much more freedom customizing your material and self-presentation in an app than they will on, say, a responsive website, and research shows that customers may prefer using apps anyway: A recent NICE-BCG survey on customer service revealed that mobile apps are gaining momentum as users’ preferred method of customer service over other channels, such as social media or self-service on a company’s website.
It should be a given that your business has some kind of website. Everyone has a website. That’s par for the course in today’s marketplace. In such a world, though, simply having a serviceable and good-looking website may not be enough to separate your business from your competition, all of whom most likely have a decent website as well. This is where an app can set you apart. Why not extend your services beyond a website? Reach out even further to your customers by offering them a taste of your service via an app, be it mobile, desktop, or browser-based. Does your business offer financial planning services? Maybe you’d want to offer a desktop app that syncs nicely with spreadsheets from your user’s computer. Does your business provide referral services based on a customer’s location? In that case, a mobile app is the way to go.
There are more ways than ever to get your app out there to users, from desktop clients to traditional mobile apps, and with apps becoming a much more far-reaching term with increasingly tangible benefits, it’s not too late to get in on the action. 2016 may very well be the year that the phrase “there’s an app for that” finally applies to your business.
Ellie Martin is co-founder of Startup Change group. Her works have been featured on Yahoo! , Wisebread, AOL, among others. She currently splits her time between her home office in New York and Israel.